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Gathering his flowing robe, he seem'd to stand
In act to speak, and graceful stretch'd his hand.
Behind, Rome's genius waits with civic crowns,
And the great father of his country owns.
These massy columns in a circle rise,
O'er which a pompous dome invades the skies:
Scarce to the top I stretch'd my aching sight,
So large it spread, and swell’d to such a height.
Full in the midst proud Fame's imperial seat
With jewels blaz’d, magnificently great ;
The vivid emeralds there revive the eye,
The flaming rubies show their sanguine dye,
Bright azure rays from lively sapphires stream,
And lucid amber casts a golden gleam.
With various-colour'd light the pavement shone,
And all on fire appear'd the glowing throne;
The dome's high arch reflects the mingled blaze,
And forms a rainbow of alternate rays.
When on the goddess first I cast my sight,
Scarce seem'd her stature of a cubit's height ;
But swell’d to larger size, the more I gaz'd,
Till to the roof her towering front she rais'd.
With her, the temple every moment grew,
And ampler vistas open'd to my view :
Upward the columns shoot, the roofs ascend,
And arches widen, and long aisles extend.
Such was her form, as ancient bards have told,
Wings raise her arms, and wings her feet infold ;
A thousand busy tongues the goddess bears,
And thousand open eyes, and thousand listening ears.
Beneath, in order rang'd, the tuneful Nine
(Her virgin handmaids) still attend the shrine :
With eyes on Fame for ever fix'd, they sing;
For Fame they raise their voice, and tune the string;
With Time's first birth began the heavenly lays,
And last, eternal, through the length of days.
Around these wonders as I cast a look,
The trumpet sounded, and the temple shook,
And all the nations, summon'd at the call,
From different quarters fill the crowded hall :
Of various tongues the mingled sounds were heard ;
In various garbs promiscuous throngs appear'd;
Thick as the bees, that with the spring renew
Their flowery toils, and sip the fragrant dew,
When the wing'd colonies first tempt the sky,
O’er dusky fields and shaded waters fly,
Or, settling, seize the sweets the blossoms yield,
And a low murmur runs along the field.
Millions of suppliant crowds the shrine attend,
And all degrees before the goddess bend ;
The poor, the rich, the valiant, and the sage,
And boasting youth, and narrative old-age.
Their pleas were different, their request the same;
For good and bad alike are fond of Fame.
Some she disgrac'd, and some with honours crown'd;
Unlike successes equal merits found.
Thus her blind sister, fickle Fortune, reigns,
And undiscerning scatters crowns and chains.
First at the shrine the learned world appear, And to the goddess thus prefer their prayer. “ Long have we sought t instruct and please
With studies pale, with midnight vigils blind ;
But thank'd by few, rewarded yet by none,
We here appeal to thy superior throne :
On wit and learning the just prize bestow,
For Fame is all we must expect below."
The goddess heard, and bade the Muses raise
The golden trumpet of eternal Praise :
From pole to pole the winds diffuse the sound,
That fills the circuit of the world around;
Not all at once, as thunder breaks the cloud;
The notes at first were rather sweet than loud :
By just degrees they every moment rise,
Fill the wide Earth, and gain upon the skies.
At every breath were balmy odoạrs shed,
Which still grew sweeter, as they wider spread :
Less fragrant scents th' unfolding rose exhales,
Or spices breathing in Arabian gales.
Next these the good and just, an awful train, Thus on their knees address the sacred fane. “ Since living virtue is with envy curs'd, And the best men are treated like the worst, Do thou, just goddess, call our merits forth, And give each deed th' exact intrinsic worth." “ Not with bare justice shall your act be crown'd," (Said Fame) “ but high above desert renown'd: Let fuller notes th' applauding world amaze, And the loud clarion labour in your praise."
This band dismiss'd, behold another crowd Prefer'd the same request, and lowly bow'd; The constant tenour of whose well-spent days No less deserv'd a just return of praise. But straight the direful trump of Slander sounds; Through the big dome the doubling thunder
bounds; Loud as the burst of cannon rends the skies, The dire report through every region flies,
In every ear incessant rumours rung,
And gathering scandals grew on every tongue.
From the black trumpet's rusty concave broke
Sulphureous flames, and clouds of rolling smoke:
The poisonous vapour blots the purple skies,
And withers all before it as it flies.
A troop came next, who crowns and armour wore,
And proud defiance in their looks they bore :
“ For thee” (they cry'd), “ amidst alarms and strife,
We sail'd in tempests down the stream of life;
For thee whole nations fill’d with flames and blood,
And swam to empire through the purple flood.
Those ills we dar'd, thy inspiration own;
What virtue seem'd, was done for thee alone.”
“ Ambitious fools !” (the queen reply'd, and frown'd)
“Be all your acts in dark oblivion drown'd;
There sleep forgot, with mighty tyrants gone,
Your statues moulder'd, and your names unknown!”
A sudden cloud straight snatch'd them from my
And each majestic phantom sunk in night.
Then came the smallest tribe I yet had seen;
Plain was their dress, and modest was their mien.
6 Great idol of mankind! we neither claim
The praise of merit, nor aspire to Fame !
But, safe in deserts from th' applause of men,
Would die unheard of, as we liv'd unseen.
'Tis all we beg thee, to conceal from sight
Those acts of goodness which themselves requite.
O let us still the secret joys partake,
To follow Virtue ev'n for Virtue's sake."
“ And live there men, who slight immortal Fame? Who then with incense shall adore our name?
But, mortals ! know, 'tis still our greatest pride,
To blaze those virtues which the good would hide.
Rise! Muses, rise ! add all your tuneful breath ;
These must not sleep in darkness and in death."
She said : in air the trembling music floats,
And on the winds triumphant swell the notes ;
So soft, though high, so loud, and yet so clear,
Ev'n listening angels lean from Heaven to hear :
To farthest shores th' ambrosial spirit flies,
Sweet to the world, and grateful to the skies.
Next these a youthful train their vows express'd,
With feathers crown'd, with gay embroidery dress’d:
“ Hither," they cry'd, “ direct your eyes, and see
The men of pleasure, dress, and gallantry;
Ours is the place at banquets, balls, and plays;
Sprightly our nights, polite are all our days;
Courts we frequent, where 'tis our pleasing care
To pay due visits, and address the fair :
In fact, 'tis true, no nymph we could persuade,
But still in fancy vanquish'd every maid ;
Of unknown duchesses lewd tales we tell,
Yet, would the world believe us, all were well.
The joy let others have, and we the name,
And what we want in pleasure, grant in fame."
The queen assents, the trumpet rends the skies, And at each blast a lady's honour dies.
Pleas'd with the same success, vast numbers prest Around the shrine, and made the same request : “ What you !” (she cry'd) “ unlearn’d in arts to
please, Slaves to yourselves, and ev'n fatigued with ease, Who lose a length of undeserving days, Would you usurp the lover's dear-bought praise ?